Why get immunised against meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is a very serious infection that can cause severe scarring, loss of limbs, brain damage and death.
Vaccination is a safe and effective way to protect yourself from meningococcal disease.
In Australia, the 5 most common types of meningococcal bacteria found are called A, B, C, W and Y. Vaccines can protect against all these types, but different vaccines protect against different types. No single vaccine protects against all types.
Who should get immunised against meningococcal disease?
Anyone who wants to protect themselves against meningococcal disease can talk to their doctor about getting immunised.
Anyone wishing to reduce their risk of meningococcal disease can be offered vaccination with meningococcal B (from 6 weeks of age) and meningococcal ACWY (from 2 months of age).
Meningococcal immunisation is recommended for:
- babies and young children, especially children under 2 years old (meningococcal B and ACWY )
- healthy adolescents aged 15-19 years (meningococcal B and ACWY)
- adolescents and young adults living together in close quarters, such as dormitories and military barracks (meningococcal B and ACWY)
- adolescents and young adults who are current smokers (meningococcal B and ACWY)
- people who are travelling overseas, especially to places where meningococcal disease is more common, or people travelling to mass gatherings like the Hajj (meningococcal ACWY),
- people who have medical conditions that increase their risk of invasive meningococcal disease for example, people who have certain blood disorders or are taking treatment for certain blood disorders people with weakened immune systems, such as people without a functioning spleen, people living with HIV and people who have had a stem cell transplant (meningococcal B and ACWY)
- laboratory workers who work with the bacterium that causes meningococcal disease (meningococcal B and ACWY)
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 2 months to 19 years.
Meningococcal ACWY vaccine is provided free through the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for:
- Children at 12 months of age
- Adolescents aged approximately 14 to 16 years thorough school based immunisation programs, and those aged 15-19 as part of an ongoing catch up program through GPs and other vaccination providers
People who have not yet reached year 10 can be caught up using meningococcal C vaccine for free under the NIP if they did not receive the vaccine in childhood. This is called catch-up vaccination.
Where can you get a meningococcal immunisation?
Meningococcal immunisations are available in each Australian state and territory.
See Where can I get immunised? for more information.
You can get meningococcal vaccines on their own or as a combination vaccine. Different vaccines protect against different types of meningococcal disease. They are all given as a needle.
Meningococcal vaccines include:
- Meningococcal C vaccines:
- Meningococcal B vaccines:
- Meningococcal A, C, W, Y vaccines:
Your doctor can tell you which vaccine they will use for your meningococcal immunisation.
Do I need to pay for meningococcal immunisation?
Vaccines covered by the NIP are free for people who are eligible. See the NIP Schedule to find out which vaccines you or people in your family are eligible to receive.
Eligible people get the vaccine for free, but your health care provider (for example, your doctor) may charge a consultation fee for the visit. You can check this when you make your appointment.
Children and adolescents not eligible for meningococcal vaccines through the NIP, may be able to receive free vaccines through state-funded programs. Contact your state or territory health department for details.
If you are not eligible for free vaccines, you may need to pay for it. The cost depends on the type of vaccine, the formula and where you buy it from. Your immunisation provider can give you more information.
What are the possible side effects of meningococcal immunisation?
All medicines and vaccines can have side effects. Most of the time they are not serious.
For most people, the chance of having a serious side effect from a vaccine is much lower than the chance of serious harm if you caught the disease.
Talk to your doctor about the possible side effects of meningococcal vaccines, or if you or your child have symptoms that worry you after having a meningococcal vaccine.
Common side effects of meningococcal vaccines include:
- pain, redness and swelling where the needle went in
- fever (especially for meningococcal B vaccine)
- feeling unsettled or tired
- decreased appetite
The Consumer Medicine Information links in How do you get immunised against meningococcal disease? list the side effects of each vaccine.
- Meningococcal disease
- What is immunisation?
- How does immunisation work?
- NIP Schedule
- National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance
If you need advice or more information about immunisation, go to our Immunisation contacts page.